Patriot-Big 5 Challenge (almost)

The big name game for Patriot League teams tonight has Lafayette at No. 9 Georgia Tech.

We are not foolish enough to predict any upset here, though we would suggest that if Lafayette were a little more experienced, conditions could be ripe. Georgia Tech is coming off a 42-point win over Charleston Southern and has a visit to No. 2 Kansas for a nationally televised game (ESPN) on Saturday.

On the Atlanta Journal Constitution'sGeorgia Tech page, they already have a fan poll up asking "How do you like the Jackets' chances going into the Kansas game?" (NOTE: The AJC's site requires a three-part sign in ... use Hoop as the first name, for the e-mail and hooptime for the password ... also, much of their Tech stuff is part of a premium package you must subscribe to. That password will not get you the pay content).

Most likely the best macthup of the night will be in Philly, where Bucknell will visit St. Joseph's.

This one is on Hawk Hill, in Alumni memorial Fieldhouse, which is reminiscent of Bucknell's old Davis Gym.

Bucknell, which has never beaten St. Joe's, has not visited the fieldhouse since a 20-point loss there in 1995. One Bison, though, will feel pretty much at home. Bison freshman John Griffin's father played at St. Joseph's and coached the Hawks for five seasons. Phil Martelli first came to St. Joe's as an assistant under Griffin. That last Bucknell visit, by the way, came in Martelli's first season as coach of the Hawks and Pat Flannery's first year heading the Bison.

St. Joe's likes to say "the Hawk will never die." But this is not last year's St. Joseph's team. St. Joe's lost as many time in its first three games of the season as it did all of last year. Gone are Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, both taken in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Even the cover of the Hawks' media guide carries the theme "Transition."

That transition tag does not apply to the Hawks' offense. lacking the horses that got up and down in a hurry last year, Phil Martelli has been concentrating on getting the Hawks to play better in half court sets. That could prove difficult against Bucknell, a notoriously strong half court defensive team.

Dick Jerardi of the Philly Daily News suggests that offense is a work in progress. In St. Joe's last game, Thursday at Old Dominion,Jerardi said:
. . . The Hawks were playing with a revamped offense.

The offense worked very nicely. Solid screens were set. Hard cuts were made. Open shots were obtained. There was one problem. Actually, there were 23 of them.
Jerardi was referring to turnovers. Despite the turnovers, St. Joe's only lost by 4 (66-62) on the road to a team with only one loss thus far.
Martelli was calling offensive sets nearly every time down the court. His practices these days are mostly halfcourt stuff. It is not what he wants to do. It is what he has to do. The Hawks have gone from a team of improvisation to a by-the-numbers group.

The 62 points was the Hawks' third-highest total of the season. This offense and this team are a work in progress. They are still thinking instead of doing.
We will see tonight how much they have improved over the holiday weekend.

Bucknell catches a break by playing this one while the students are on break. That should make Alumni Fieldhouse a little more hospitable. Still, St. Joe's is steeped in tradition.

Listen live or follow the game on Gametracker.

American also faces a Big 5 foe, hosting LaSalle.

LaSalle is 1-7 thus far, the Explorers lone win coming over Southern Cal. No wonder they fired Henry Bibby.

You can listen to the LaSalle broadcast on Yahoo.

Tonight's other game has Colgate meeting Binghamton in the consolation game of the Florida International tournament. This is a meeting of two schools an hour apart that they both traveled about 1,400 miles to play.

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